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Searching neutrality

One of the tacit assumptions in Knowledge Management is that searches made by, or on behalf of users, will be from a neutral viewpoint. That is, personal concerns or interests should not have an influence on the performance of the search. At the core of this expectation is the assumption that the search engine will produce consistent and repeatable results.

Google’s adoption of personalised searching — an adaptation of its searching algorithm that has been applied to all searches since December 2009 — has raised concerns because, through the use of cookies, Google adapts the set of search results towards those already found by a user.

Whilst this feature may be considered useful for personal searching, it presents profound difficulties for the professional searcher, especially because there is no means of switching the “personalisation” feature off. In 2012, the Pew Internet Report (http://www.pewinternet.org/2012/03/09/search-engine-use-2012/) noted that 65% of those surveyed considered this to be a “bad” feature and 73% considered it an invasion of privacy.

For us professional searchers, the question must be: if one does use Google, should one continue or move to a search engine that does not track?

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